Time is a commodity everyone is short on. We live in a rat’s race pace, perpetually scraping for “more time”, but never feeling like we find it. And all for what? A few more dollars in the bank? A few more stamps in the passport? A few more parties, pleasures, possessions? People spend their healthy days working themselves to death in the hopes that they’ll still be healthy enough when they retire to enjoy the things they didn’t enjoy when they were younger.
Now, I don’t for a minute think that the end goal of life is enjoyment or pleasure – I believe God put each of us on this earth with a purpose, that purpose being first and foremost to glorify Him. I believe our lives should be useful lives, seeking to serve and bless other people. This is something I’m still working on myself, trying to figure out. But even while I believe that pleasure isn’t the goal of life, I believe that God made this world beautiful for His glory and our enjoyment, and I don’t think nearly enough people are willing to enjoy it, or give themselves the time to enjoy it, or have the eyes to enjoy it, or to enjoy the deeper significance of the beauty of this world. Our culture has created a mindset towards work and daily life that makes it difficult to enjoy the good things God has created, the things that can’t be bought and paid for.
I think this is ultimately an issue of purpose, of spiritual purpose.
Of course I understand that our culture is far from being Christian anymore – Our culture is actively rejecting any concept that is remotely Christian, but by rejecting God and the Gospel we haven’t just lost our faith or our adherence to some “strict moral code,” as some would like to argue. By losing our Christian worldview and our Christian identity, we’ve lost our purpose, our identity that goes deeper than our job title, the dollar amount on our paycheck, the neighborhood we live in, or the prestigious way we spend our free time. We are forever hungering for something we think we can buy with money, but can only be gained with spiritual eyes and a new heart. We’ve lost the joy of contentment.
We’ve lost the ability to appreciate God’s simple daily gifts and the significance of something as ephemeral as a rainbow, or a flower, or the way the sunlight strikes the mica-encrusted quarts. We’ve lost our appreciation of beauty. And what slim appreciation of true beauty that there is becomes mired in the mindset of meaninglessness, all that there is in this world being the result of complicated and unexplained “natural processes”. Meaningless, everything is meaningless.
We have a nation that is sinking under a burden of vainly spent dollars, under a burden of depression and worry and jealousy and envy and pride and hate. We have a culture of people who live with the constant reminder of what they can do, should do, or want to do, of what the human race can do, has done, will do, wants to do. We have a culture that wakes, eats, works, and sleeps surrounded by the fruit of man’s labors. Our culture is so bent on complicated pleasures, so bent on belongings and material wealth and security, that we as a culture have completely lost sight of the brimful storehouse of God’s goodness, manifested in His wonderful Creation, which are gifts that anyone can enjoy.
There is a whole world that exists outside of the city limits, above the light pollution, beyond the concrete, steel, brick, and glass of our world of industry. What if people could see and understand the significance of beauty? What about the beauty of true and selfless relationships? What if people had a context in which to understand sorrow and grief and pain? What if people could be reminded of what God can do, has done, will do, and could see God’s fingerprints on every hill, rock, tree, flower, pebble, lake, and cloud? What if people could see God’s promises spelled out in His Creation? What if people could revel in the plenty of contentment? What wealth of soul that would produce! These are pleasures that cannot be bought with money, comforts that aren’t material, so to these we all have equal access. Even the poorest among us can be rich indeed, rich of soul. That is a richness that lasts.
This is a richness that begins, first and foremost, at the moment of Salvation. This is also an attitude of the heart that can be cultivated, and doesn’t require straying outside of the city limits (although it is easier to see God’s handiwork outside of man’s world). It is possible to train one’s eyes to see God’s fingerprints in the small and mundane things of life. It is possible for anyone, work-burdened, life-burdened, heart-burdened, or otherwise, to experience the joys of living, whether in the midst of difficulty or not. God gives these gifts. We have to be willing to see them.
How wonderful, then, is taking the time to wander and to wonder, taking the time to stray from the beaten path, to gaze on the obscured, to revel in the majesty of this beautiful world, knowing that this world, beautiful as it is, is just a washed-out, lesser, corrupt version of the wonderful world to come.